We’re here, gang! Brian and Brendan have carefully read and considered your questions, and in the end decided that none of you were worth the effort it would take to give answers. Sorry, gang. The season ends in a draw.
…okay, that went in a direction I didn’t see coming. Let’s give answers and pleas, and you can all look deep within your souls and cast a vote based on which of these people is your brother. Or something else, I don’t know.
To both: What were your favorite/least favorite stories that you wrote this season?
My favorite by far is the story about the billionaire horse that goes out on a date (Challenge 9). It’s just so endearingly stupid.
Least favorite has to be for the ‘Newborn/Cult’ prompt, not sure which challenge that was. The idea was that a midwife runs away with the newborn-savior of a cult. It’s not an inspired idea to start off with, but there’s a line in there where one of the cult leaders says ‘Kindly keep on eye on [the baby] for just a moment’, and it makes me slap my forehead every time I read it. I mean, why the fuck would they leave the baby?!
My least favorite was “The Last to Know.” I wrote about a celebrity impersonator who finds out at a gig that the celebrity he impersonates had just done some really racist stuff. I thought the prompt was cool, and I liked my idea, but it didn’t get anywhere in the first 15 minutes, so I basically started over. I didn’t medal, but that wasn’t really the point. I find people on the fringes of the spotlight very interesting. I thought and still think it’s a good idea. But, due to time constraints I didn’t have a chance to do the idea justice, and it fell flat.
My favorite was probably the “Little. Yellow. Different.” Challenge. I really like writing things that are full of juxtaposition, and this was a perfect challenge for it. The absurd idea that this guy was so happy and proud of himself for using an assassination service to get a girl—that the death of another could be a solution to such a non-problem—is funny to me. The idea that THIS would be a marketing campaign—so ham-fistedly subtle—for an assassination service, is funny to me. Office space versus guys in a grimy warehouse planning a hit. Placing the grim finality of death side-by-side with the banality of WHERE these services are offered. I liked it.
Brian: In what ways did you change the course of the game?
It may sound unsexy, but for the first two-thirds of the game I didn’t need to do much. You all did a great job of destroying yourselves. For the last stretch I was able to play a bigger role, both through a couple of very opportune immunities, and be trying to influence things such that by the time we got to the final three I would hopefully be left with players that might consider taking me to the end. I’ll get more into that in the next couple of questions.
Brendan: At what point during the day had you decided that you were going to vote out Annette and force a tie?
Well, as is clear by now Erik and I worked pretty closely on this. I only voted for Annette to try to keep Erik in the game. I went back and looked at emails and remember the exchange. I was in my kitchen firing off emails on a Friday waiting for some people to come over to cook some food.
Anyway, I had spent a fair amount of the day testing the waters. When it became apparent that there would be votes for Erik I tried to nudge Annette in another direction. When that wasn’t viable, I did my best to put Erik in a write-off. I figured if I explicitly told Annette I wasn’t voting for Erik or that she should vote with us, she wouldn’t have AND would have used that information to rustle another vote up and I’d be screwed. I didn’t want to vote for Annette either, but she was the only other person being discussed. My train of thought was, I’d gotten this far with Erik, and there was no sense jumping ship on a duo that worked well to form an alliance with a group of people who knew each other better than they knew me, and were competing for the same win.
A bird in the hand vs. two in the bush, that kind of thing.
Brendan: What would have happened had you won the final immunity?
I would have still voted Zack out. A running theme in here is building strong alliances and not forsaking them for short-term gains. Zack and Pete had a strong alliance much like Erik and I had, and they stuck with it. But, they also put me in a dangerous position and elimed the guy I was working most closely with. I don’t see any reason to reward that, even if Zack’s score is more comparable to mine than Brian’s.
Brian: Who were your closest allies during the game, and how did having them (or losing them) affect the way you played?
There were only two players who I considered real allies: Beau and Brooks. I allied with Beau early and had planned to stick with him pretty much to the end. Having someone like Beau on your side is great because he does all the hard work and I get to hang out in the background, hopefully getting overlooked. Unfortunately, it also means that Beau becomes a regular target since he’s such a known threat.
Brooks offered to make an alliance shortly after Beau got eliminated (I think Beau was also one of Brooks’ main allies). I needed somebody to work with, and it seemed like a good match. People were distracted with the idea that Melissa and I were allies, which was never the case, and so the hope was my alliance with Brooks would go unnoticed until we were in a position to have some real influence.
Unfortunately I forgot that Brooks is Brooks, and so the inevitable vote-Brooks madness descended upon the group. So that was that.
I really wanted to ally with Annette, as she was the only player in the end-game that seemed to have any real flexibility in her plans. I had attempted to get an alliance going with pretty much everyone else, but was rebuffed, which I found frustrating. I felt like I was this floating vote out there, but everyone was so narrowly focused on their plans that they didn’t seem to care. At least one tie, and possibly two, could have been avoided if anyone had taken me up on this offer. Annette seemed like she might, so I sided with her on the tie against Erik, hoping to work with her going forward. We all know how that ended.
Strangely, I think this all turned out to be at least a little beneficial to me. By the end I was was able to plausibly present myself as an ally-less non-threat, making it easier to try to go after presumed bigger threats.
On a sidenote, when we got to four I had decided to ignore any promises I had made to Zack up to that point and try to get Brendan to vote against Pete. It turned out I didn’t even need to do anything to make this happen; Brendan got the immunity and essentially guaranteed at least a tie with Pete. I really tried to get Zack to go against Pete, and may very well have voted to take Zack to the end if he had. I’m very curious to know what Brendan or Zack would have done had they gotten the immunity.
Brian: Do you feel you managed to get to the final two based on strategy and game play, or solely upon your spectacular writing skills?
You know, I don’t feel I wrote all that well this season, although the muse did come through at opportune times. My strategy was generally straightforward: either hide out behind other players, letting them do the hard work and feed me information; or, in the end game, offer to go with anyone else’s plan as long as it wasn’t me who was being targeted. Whenever I did have a choice in how to steer the game, my overriding goal was to make sure that I did not end up at the final three with either Brendan/Erik or Pete/Zack. Those alliances were way too concrete, and I wanted some chance to make it to the end without absolutely needing immunity. As it turns out, I got my wish as far as the final-three was concerned, and I snagged an immunity, so things worked out. So strategy definitely played its part.
But I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that a huge reason I’m here is due to some spectacular bungling on the part of several jury members. In particular, I have no idea what the hell happened on that tie with Melissa. She went after me on that vote (a few rounds before I was planning to work up a vote against her. . . *sigh*), and there is utterly no reason why I should have not been eliminated. I was also the beneficiary of a fair amount of luck on the tie with Joe, although that one makes some sense. He apparently didn’t realize just how many votes had swung away from Erik and to him, and so Joe did not do the sensible thing and vote for me.
So there you go, jury. You have none but yourselves to blame for this mess.
Brendan: What was your plan, post merge? How were you hoping to stick out from the pack as the game began to wind down?
My post-merge plan fell apart quickly.
Given the previous relationships most participants had, and given that I’d only had 1 tribe member (Erik) make it post-merge with me, the only other 2 people I’d had any interaction with were Jordan and Josh, who I know personally. I figured that us 4, working together, could get 33% on any vote. Plus, given they were coming from Hidden, if we could swing a few of them just from tribe loyalty, we could push that closer to 50%. This voting bloc, in turn, would allow us to swing additional votes as needed—might as well join a team you can trust!
But, then Jordan and Josh got eliminated pretty much immediately.
From there, it was trusting Erik to not screw me over, then working to scrounge votes as we could to keep ourselves in the game, and to pick off high-end competitors 1 by 1.
In terms of sticking out from the pack, my goal was to, uh, not do that. I specifically aimed to lay low. I think this is the primary advantage of being New Guy. Given the history many of the participants have with one another, there was always the Next Big Target that needed to go. So, by letting history replay itself in the minds of the other players, it allowed them to focus on eliminating players they knew were good, while lil’ ole me cast important votes with little consequence.
Brendan: Did you have specific plans throughout the game, and if so, when did they work out and when did they not? How would you separate yourself from the plans of your major allies?
I mentioned my post-merge plan previously, so I won’t rehash that.
Challenge 5 or 6 Eric submitted his notes instead of his story. I wanted to use the chit but got outvoted. Doing so would have saved us an elim. Another plan foiled.
Post-merge, honestly, my biggest plan was to work with Erik to survive round-to-round.
Post-merge, my ally circle quickly evaporated. No Josh or Jordan, Erik was the only person from my tribe left. Given this, any time I tried to jury-rig some plan that was more than 4-5 votes, things never really worked out.
In turn, it became clear to me that working with Erik was my best bet. Him and I would carry 15%-45% of the vote throughout post-merge if we stuck to our guns. So, that almost-certain voting state made us valuable to other singles, pairs or trios working together. From there, we had recruitment value, but also twice the weight to throw around.
This saved our ass several times, as you can see by the many, many write-offs (sorry, Kelly). In turn, our voting power grew, allowing us to push forward.
That said, I think overall we disagreed on the kind of person to vote for. Erik often favored voting out strong writers when they didn’t get immunity. His line of reasoning was, basically, “When will we have this chance again?” Mine, instead, was to try to eliminate those I saw as more meddlesome, thinking, “we have less reason to trust these people in the future, and they’re more likely to turn current allies against us.”
We both got our votes in turn.
Brian: How many times did you go into a week believing you had to get immunity or you were a goner?
There was never a point where I thought I didn’t have a decent chance of making it through a vote cleanly. Even when I knew I was being targeted, I always had enough solid support plus a few wishy-wash allies to make a real fight of it. Annette suggested that I had avoided certain doom with the immunity at Challenge 18, but I don’t think that’s the case. You all will know better than I who was correct.
Brian: If you win this, will your sister ever stop hearing about it?
Brendan: Most new players are pretty passive, especially at first. Did you feel that way at first, and was there a point during the game where it switched and you felt like you belonged and were in control?
This was more like a series of events than anything.
At first, I was certainly concerned about this. I’m relatively confident in my writing, but you never know how your writing might appeal to an audience. More, it’s the strategy aspect of this game. I’ve played strategy games before and so much of it is interpersonal workings. Knowing that the majority of the contestants had previous relationships, while I only knew 3 other people, made me think that I’d be an easy out when my time was up.
This changed over time.
In the pre-challenge Clem writing prompt, the fact that I got a gold—and the friends I joined with, Jordan, Josh and Danyel—all did fine, at least told me we weren’t over our heads from a writing perspective. I was worried about this, and this quelled my fears.
Then, early on Jon Pope suggested I read some of the comments in Survivor XV to see how strategy can unravel. I did, then I went back and looked for other Survivor threads that were comment-heavy and tried to read up on those, both to get a better sense of personalities, and to see how people had screwed up in the past. It helped a lot, in that it became apparent to me than most anyone can get screwed over at any time, so that just because Player X and Player Y are allies, doesn’t mean it can’t flip. This did 2 things for me. 1) It showed me that my previous fears about being an automatic cut because of my newness were overblown, but that it was important to start building relationships and 2) That shutting up is just as valuable as speaking up.
When Jordan, the high-scorer, was the first cut post-merge it signaled to me that my previous assumption about making friends was correct, that I was playing the game a little better than I thought. I’d been speaking to him, as we’re real-life buds, and he said he had little communication with anyone outside of our friend circle—even his tribe. So, even though he carried Hidden Legends to no elims pre-merge, his inability or unwillingness to forge relationships to pair with strong writing was a misstep.
Finally, there was a fair amount of unnecessary late-game flip-flopping I witnessed that made me pretty sure I was right to maintain my alliance with Erik even if we didn’t agree sometimes. There were a few players that I’d try to recruit for a bloc vote that would go the other way the next time for, as far as I could tell, no good reason. These were players like me who were in danger of being eliminated who managed to piss off all parties that might eliminate them. In seeing others eliminated because they constantly made long-term enemies for the sake of short-term friends, it became clear to me that my decision to continue to work with Erik was the correct one.
There were tons of other little signals here and there, but I look at those four moments as affirmation that I could do this kind of stuff. And, as each one passed, I grew more confident in my decisions.
Lucky for you all, it’s 9 pm and I’m out of time, so no plea. Great game everyone, and those jury notes had better be filled with drama!
Explicitly: I hope the judges don’t think that I managed to float into the finals.
I want to be clear that Erik was extremely helpful and a great partner through most of this, as were the members of my tribe: Eric, Jon, Bret, and Will. They gave a first-time player a ton of good pointers.
That said, my decisions were my own. I had plenty of opportunities to seize short-term gains by sacrificing long-term goals, and I actively chose not to do so. I think one can easily perceive Erik and my working together as me tagging along, but we disagreed, debated and worked together, just like any of the other partnerships forged by more experienced players. When I had to reach out and try to get votes, I did. When he had to, he did.
I previously mentioned going back and reading old comments sections. This taught me not to actively meddle too much—all it does is put a target on one’s back. So, if you perceived me as being inactive, that simply wasn’t the case. It was more me laying low and letting people point fingers at everyone but myself.
My writing also developed over time. If you look at the scoring, I started out strong, hit a lull in the middle, and finished strong. I attribute the strong start to decent writing when there were still weaker writers in the game. I had some good pieces that got the medals they deserved and some average pieces that got some points because of a dearth of good work and non-subs. Then, I struggled creatively in the middle. Towards the end I got hot. Some of this is luck, I’m sure, but I also did some self-evaluation regarding what was working and what wasn’t. Then, I forced myself to stick to a kind of writing style that kept meriting medals.
So, yeah, I’m New Guy, but that doesn’t mean I lucked into this. I think I’ve earned the chance for victory.
Two smart guys gave lots of smart answers. That’s…CdL for you.
Voters, have votes, with any comments, to me by Saturday at 5pm Central and we’ll get this thing nailed down.